16 December 2011

Movie Delights: Sherlock Holmes-Game of Shadows reviewed

I have done it.  I've experienced my first midnight showing in a movie theatre and, with the help of tea at around 10pm to keep me from yawning, I made it through a first showing of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. The members of the fairly large, young audience was my first clue to what ended up being a night easily described as indifference, at best.  In the first film, I arrived not knowing what to expect and was pleasantly surprised.  I enjoyed myself!  This time, I knew what to expect and it was delivered...maybe even overdone.   

Varying portrayals or interpretations of Holmes and Watson are numerous.  With the recent 21st Century resurgence, the Baker Street boys have once again become part of our lives and the Warner Bros. film franchise has a lot to do with it.  This particular version focuses on Holmes as the man of action.  Guy Ritchie has Holmes (and Watson) get into more fights, hear more shots fired, have more things blow-up around them, and experience what seems like the type of mayhem that James Bond or even Batman and Robin would encounter.  It was strange to see the great intellect of Holmes reduced to only a few lightening-quick moments.

RDJ's Holmes is an action-hero.  Plain and simple.  The movie-audience-member part of me enjoyed seeing an exciting, fun movie, but these days the Sherlockian part of me missed the Holmes I feel I know so well from Doyle's canon (and Cumberbatch's Sherlock, but that's another discussion).  Sherlock Holmes, in this film, has lost the reflective intellect that make him a Victorian gentleman.  In only two moments in more than two hours, the action man slowed down and became the man of thought.  Holmes was a clean, well-dressed, Victorian gentleman, but this version is a complete opposite. The unkept, scruffy, almost un-hygenic appearance of this particular Holmes bothered me more this time around.

Jude Law's John Watson is a gleam of light in this darker, dirtier London.  He perfectly retains Watson's loyalty and bafflement to his eccentric friend.  Plus, he is able to take on the action just as much as this action-oriented Holmes.  And, he looks his part.  John manages to stay the soldier and doctor in manner and personality.  Downey and Law do play the friendship well, and despite Watson's marriage, we still feel that the doctor will miss his friend and their adventures.  Irene Adler was sadly disposed of quite quickly and Mycroft Holmes, "Sherly's" older brother, was played by the wonderful Stephen Fry.  However, the elder Holmes fit into the scheme of things a bit awkwardly.  I couldn't tell if he was the enigma from canon, or a comic relief element a la Nigel Bruce.

James Moriarty and Sebastian Moran, the baddies, played their part.  As ominous and powerful as the great M is supposed to be, this one was almost underwhelming.  Moran, M's Watson, was excellent as a baddie.  Sebastian certainly showed his colors and turned out being far more interesting than the Big Bad.  Combine that with the threat of war and Germans, it makes for an odd overall story.

There were a few clever references to canon, but on the whole Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is far from its roots.  For those that like a good action movie, then they will not be disappointed.  For this  Sherlockian, the first turned out better than the sequel.


  1. If Downey Jr is replaced with Nick Cage, this movie can be called National Treasure: The European Chapter...If we take Will Smith instead, this can be called Wild Wild West in Europe..

    Downey Jr has neither the physicality nor the body language of the canonical Holmes.

    This version of Holmes (at least to me) is a crass attempt to exploit the popularity of Sherlock Holmes to mint money.

    I might be wrong and would love to hear your thoughts..


  2. Wow, a comment--thanks.

    I will agree with you that RDJ's Holmes is far from canonical. As I said, he is an action-hero. Not necessarily my favorite, or the best, interpretation of Holmes (Rathbone,Brett and most recently Cumberbatch have done 10x better)so, I will also agree that RDJ's physicality or body language does not meet canonical Holmes as well as those listed above have. I do think, however, it has made Holmes (and perhaps the canon and Sir Arthur) accessible to another audience and generation, and that is not always a bad thing.

    I was pleasantly surprised by the first movie, but disliked the second one (maybe that wasn't clear in the review). But since it was one of the first recent reinterpretations, I don't see how it was an attempt to exploit the popularity of Holmes.

    On the other hand, the recent news on CBS's upcoming modern Holmes-based series, Elementary, is a clear-cut example of this very practice, I think. They even went out and cast Cumberbatch's co-star from the theatre production of Frankenstein as well as a female Watson (talk about non-canonical!) Everything about that project is wrong!--as Cumberbatch's Holmes might put it.


  3. Yes, CBS 'Elementary' definitely takes the cake for being outright preposterous in their 'changes' to the canon.

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